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Biodiversity accounting

Much of the wildlife outside of our protected areas is declining – the current systems of nature conservation are self-evidently inadequate and it is time to try something extra and something new.

The biodiversity metric is a tool that can identify the overall feasibility of a project, the best mitigation hierarchy measures (e.g. where best to site buildings and limit the impact on nature) and lead to cost calculations for compensating (offsetting) impacts to biodiversity. Environment Bank’s calculator is based on this Government metric which was tested by Defra in 6 county-sized pilots in 2013/2014 and by other local authorities who wanted to use it. The metric design draws upon offsetting metrics that have already been used for decades in other countries (e.g. Australia).

The advantages to business of adopting a system of biodiversity accounting are:

  • a clear and transparent approach that demonstrates good planning practice and biodiversity sustainability
  • strategic guidance for business decisions to reduce ecological costs in the early stages of a project
  • early design of compensation schemes to deliver no net loss of biodiversity in accordance with planning legislation.

For example

Read our step-by-step guide to a typical impact assessment scenario

Protecting important habitats

All habitats contribute to the biodiversity around us and, whilst the loss of some special habitats simply cannot be compensated for (e.g. ancient woodland), there are others that can. Where a project does have impacts on biodiversity, then the metric puts a high value on important habitats – and the more valuable it is then the greater the associated costs will be. Thus the metric identifies important habitats and guides decisions to avoid, minimise and mitigate impacts on these habitats. This method both strengthens the adherence of a project to the mitigation hierarchy and helps minimise ecological compensation-related costs for businesses.

Contributing to landscape-scale intiatives

Green Infrastructure programmes usually aim to deliver conservation by creating a ‘coherent ecological network’ (see diagram) of connected core areas (existing areas of importance to biodiversity, often designated sites) to maximise the benefits to wildlife. Compensation arrangements can fund the creation of these networks and actively contribute to landscape-scale initiatives by targeting the location of schemes within an agreed spatial strategy.

Mitigation hierarchy

Projects should seek firstly to avoid impacts to biodiversity, then to minimise them and, only lastly, after avoidance and mitigation has been done, they should compensate for any residual effects (see diagram). The minimum objective should be no net loss of biodiversity.

Where does it apply?

Everywhere. Planning Authorities in England and Wales already have the powers within the planning system to require appropriate biodiversity compensation. This system of biodiversity accounting is just a better mechanism for assessing and delivering this and it is supported by Government – it was a key policy initiative in the 2011 Natural Environment White Paper and two-year government pilots ran in 2013/2014.

Income for farmers

Providing compensation for developers gives farmers, foresters or landowners the opportunity to receive a long-term and assured income in return for land management practices that benefit wildlife. See below for more information.

Landowners

Providing a receptor site for biodiversity compensation can provide you with a long-term and assured income in return for appropriate land management, where the management and its cost are set by you, not by any Government agency or third party. The ownership of your land will remain unaffected. You will have no statutory designations or access requirements beyond the agreed management plan.

About you

Eg: Land Manager or ‘as above’

About the property

Specify ha/ac Briefly describe the potential for creating or restoring natural areas for wildlife. Please attach any maps of the site and its ecological assessment. Eg: agri-environment?

Has an ecological survey has been carried out on the property?

Eg: local wildlife site SSSI, SPA

More about the property

What current land use exists on your property?

List my property on The Registry?

Attach images or video of your property, maps of the site or its ecological assessment.


Complete your registration

This information allows us to list your property on The Registry, with no obligation from you to proceed further. If your property is a potential match for an offset enquiry, we may need more information.

We take your privacy seriously. Read our privacy policy.

Developers

Applying a system of biodiversity accounting provides you with greater clarity when navigating the planning system, taking into account your biodiversity impact but also the efforts you are making to mitigate for those impacts. It can save you time and money because it is a simple, streamlined and secure process. It will provide you with more predictable costs and outcomes to help with future project planning.

Your liability for compensation delivery will be discharged in one payment so you won’t have those ongoing costs and responsibilities of managing land yourself.

For more information about the role of Environment Bank and how we can provide you with an accurate impact assessment using our metric calculator click here OR contact us directly.

Planning authorities

Use of the government’s biodiversity metric is a more transparent and auditable framework for evaluating the environmental impacts of development and identifying fair and sufficient compensation. It will mean a reduced burden on your time and resources.

This system gives you more predictable, accountable and coherent environmental outcomes and more easily allows you to contribute to the three pillars of sustainable development as set out within the National Planning Policy Framework.

New toolkit

We’ve collated our experience and good practice into a toolkit (Accounting for biodiversity in planning – A toolkit for Local Planning Authorities) for planners and local authority ecologists, including: what example wording looks like for local plans, planning conditions and s106 obligations, how the metric works, and how to communicate impact calculations to developers. This is now available to any local authority who is interested – download here.

For example

A typical Environment Bank impact assessment and biodiversity compensation scheme might follow these steps:

1. An assessment is undertaken by Environment Bank (usually using existing ecological survey information), on behalf of the Local Planning Authority or developer, to calculate the biodiversity impact of a proposed development, after the normal mitigation hierarchy (to avoid and reduce harm where possible) has been followed. The assessment uses Government metrics to assess habitat type, condition and area and takes into account risk factors and anticipated impact and mitigation measures to calculate any residual loss or gain to biodiversity.

2. If a biodiversity loss is calculated, then the developer is given a biodiversity deficit calculation to the value of, say, – 65 units impacting grassland. They therefore need to buy 65 grassland ‘conservation credits’ to compensate for their impacts.

3. The Local Planning Authority agrees with the developer that planning consent can be granted with the conditioned requirement of an appropriate compensation scheme.

4. Nearby, a farmer/conservation land manager has submitted to the registry a long-term management plan that will, if funded, deliver biodiversity gain of 70 credits. This calculation is also done by Environment Bank using the same Government metrics.

5. When the two – developer’s compensation needs and land manager’s conservation objectives – are matched, the credits are bought and sold and money passes into the system to fund long-term conservation management.

6. Fiscal and legal guarantees assure Local Planning Authorities that the compensation is deliverable and that their planning decisions will secure net biodiversity gain.

Environment Bank arranges long-term monitoring of its’ projects. It is important to us that our work has a positive impact on UK wildlife habitats and biodiversity.

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